In the last question the catechism instructed us as to the definition of “true faith.” In the following questions the Catechism sets the table for a detailed examination of our undoubted Catholic Christian Faith. Because these next few questions are basically table setting questions for the following questions we will be able to examine more than one question today.
As the catechizers have established what true faith is, they next turn to the issue of what it is necessary for a Christian to believe. They have given us a definition of faith and now they turn to the truths upon which our faith must be anchored.
A couple of things to note briefly here before we turn to question 22.
First, as we have mentioned before, this emphasis that we find in the catechism on the issue of the content of our faith reminds us again that Christianity is the life of the mind. Question 22 asks, “What is then necessary for a christian to believe,” not, “What is necessary for a Christian to feel,” or, “What is necessary for a Christian to experience.” As we have said feelings and experience have their place in the Christian life but it is what we believe — what we embrace as truth — that is the essence of the Christian faith.
Second, we should note that “Faith” is an inescapable category. What I mean by this is that all men live by faith in something or someone. It is not as if only Christians have faith, or only religious people have faith. Every living breathing person you meet has some kind of faith. The humanists have faith. They have faith that man, by the use of putatively autonomous right reason, can arrive at true truth quite apart from any religious considerations. (Of course thinking that one can arrive at truth apart from any religious consideration is a religious faith consideration.) The Materialists have faith that everything happened by time plus chance plus circumstance. Since they were not there, there is no way they can know that their materialism is true. Besides, for the materialists, can there even be discussion about “true,” since “true,” for the materialist, is only the firing of random chemicals in our purely material brains? If the brain secretes thought the way the liver secretes bile can the materialist really speak about “truth?”
When it comes to faith the difference for the Christian and the pagan is that the pagan’s faith reduces to “faith in faith,” while the Christian’s faith is faith anchored in divine revelation.
Very well then, with that as preliminary the Catechism asks,
Question 22. What is then necessary for a christian to believe?
Answer: All things promised us in the gospel, (a) which the articles of our catholic undoubted christian faith briefly teach us.
As they ask what is “necessary” to believe, I understand the catechizers to be communicating that what they are about to give is the basics of Christianity. They intend to stick to the meat and potatoes of our undoubted Catholic Christian faith. The catechism is given as a basic Christianity 101. Now we might find that surprising given that it takes 129 questions in the catechism to give us the basics. We’re used to 30 second sound bites to get us up to speed on any given subject. We think that we can crash course almost any subject and get up to speed in almost no time. But the Catechism, in order to give us just the essentials gives us 129 questions and answers to digest, understand, and own. Of course what is discussed in the Catechism is just the bare essentials. A Christian, having this foundation will learn much much more throughout their whole Christian life and then when they are old and ready to depart they will readily admit that they are but a child in their understanding of their undoubted Catholic Christian faith.
It is interesting that what we are required to believe is all that is promised in the Gospel. This teaches us two truths.
1.) Our undoubted Catholic Christian faith is about grasping God’s promises. The Gospel is first and foremost about God’s promises to us. The Gospel is first and foremost what God has done for us. When we teach a Christian what is necessary to believe we are teaching them to rest in God’s promises. We are teaching them that God has done all the saving in Christ and that He promises to save all those who are weary and heavy laden if they will take God at His Word that “all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
2.) The “Gospel,” as we shall see, includes believing in doctrines that sometimes are, in our contemporary Church setting, not seen as being necessary to consider. For example, the catechism will be teaching us that it is necessary for us to believe in a robust supernaturalism. In order to believe the Gospel we are required to believe Divine creation, the virgin Birth, that our Lord Christ was resurrected from the grave and that He ascended into heaven. The authors of the catechism did not countenance a hermeneutic that allowed us to try to understand the Scripture apart from the Supernatural and where we find people in the Church who claim Christ but interpret the Bible in order to avoid the supernatural or who use semantic deception to diminish the supernatural there we find people who are out of step with the Catechism and Scripture.
That belief is necessary for the Christian is taught in John 20:31
“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
In question 23 the catechism gives us the Apostles Creed as the statement that they will be breaking down in order to explain to us our undoubted Catholic Christian faith. This Creed comes to us from the life of the early Church and gives 12 affirmations regarding the nature and character of the catholic (universal) Christian faith. Often the Apostles Creed is used in Church services. In some of the branches of Christianity you might even find the Creed being chanted during the worship service. As you know we regularly recite the Apostles Creed whenever the Lord Christ invites us to His table (Eucharist).
Question 23. What are these articles?
Answer: 1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: 2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: 3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: 4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell: 5. The third day he rose again from the dead: 6. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: 7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: 8. I believe in the Holy Ghost: 9. I believe a holy catholic church: the communion of saints: 10. The forgiveness of sins: 11. The resurrection of the body: 12. And the life everlasting.
Since we will be looking closely at each one of these 12 statements we allow the Creed to go uncommented on here.
Then in Question 24 they give a brief subdivision of the Apostles Creed.
8. Lord’s Day
Question 24. How are these articles divided?
Answer: Into three parts; the first is of God the Father, and our creation; the second of God the Son, and our redemption; the third of God the Holy Ghost, and our sanctification.
The whole statement of the Apostles Creed is broken down into three subdivisions. One subdivision for each member of the Trinity.
The work of God the Father is associated with Creation. Subsumed under His work of creation we will be looking into His work of sustaining, and governing. God’s Providence will be a matter we pay close attention to.
The work of God the Son is associated with our Redemption accomplished. The Son was set apart from Eternity to be the Representative and Savior for His people. As such we will be looking at matters like propitiation, reconciliation, atonement, and other doctrines associated with the Son’s work of Redemption.
The work of God the Spirit is associate with our Redemption applied. The Spirit, being sent by the Father and the Son, applies the work of Redemption to His people and possesses His people to the end that they go from Christ-likeness to Christ-likeness.
Even though we subdivide the Apostles Creed in these three parts we mustn’t be so wooden as to think that the particular work that is assigned to each member of the Trinity finds the other members of the Trinity uninvolved with that work. For example, even though we rightly ascribe Creation to the work of the Father, we can read in Scripture of the Son and Creation,
Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
And Genesis speaks of the work of the Spirit in creation,
Genesis 1:2 The earth was [a]formless and void, and darkness was over the [b]surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was [c]moving over the [d]surface of the waters.
Similar examples could be given for each of the works that are properly ascribed to the members of the Trinity. So, while it is not wrong to think of the Father in relation to his Creator work, or the Son in relation to His Redemption work, or the Spirit in relation to His Sanctifying work it would be wrong to not realize that because of the intimate relationship between each member of the Trinity that when one member is involved in a particular work each member is involved in that work. Each member of the Trinity cooperates in each work.